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Summary Chapter One

Chana Ross
Instructional Design & Assessment CSE 205-3, Dr. Boyd Mitchell
Reading Summary #2 – Chapter One: Backwards Design
September 16, 2020
In chapter one of Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe (2005, 45) state that
backwards design is a method that starts at the end of a process before designing a curriculum or
unit that must have throughout planning that leads to good design.
The authors begin by explaining that teachers are designers of assessments that guide and
help with the achievement goals in the classroom. Teachers need to be client-focused (their
students) and use designs that are effective for learning and productive. External standards, in
conjunction with student’s needs, must be considered when designing learning outcomes. There
are devise factors that will guide teachers in their planning o design; teachers must be aware of
learning in contrast to effective learning, which will determine what goal or activities are
appropriate. Moreover, good design is learning specific purposes and what they mean versus only
learning a new skill.
Wiggins and McTighe argue that design deliberations activity affects curriculum planning.
Method teaching is problematic for lesson, unit and course planning. Desired learnings are the key
to good design, which will allow for appropriate teaching methods to follow. The text highlights
that starting with how teachers assess a student will result in using teaching methods and content
that lead to student understanding or desired result. The authors further explain that teachers need
to use results-focused design instead of content-focused design, which is teaching is not learning.
Teachers need to see what are their clear priorities to avoid student frustration in the classroom.
The authors further clarify the twin sins of traditional design. Activity-oriented design and
coverage design are weak educational designs that lack a clear big idea with no guiding intellectual
priorities or principals. Both designs lead students to try to find meaning with a lack of
understanding. Wiggins and McTighe advocate for backwards design that would include teachers:
focusing on priority learnings, evidence of achievement, and performances that makeup
assessment. Teachers are coaches – they teach for student understanding, and this is evident when
appropriate teaching methods and using learning experiences.
The text describes the three stages of backward design. Firstly, Stage One is to identify
the desired result, what students should understand, know, and be able to do. Teachers also
Wiggins and Jay McTighe. 2005. "Backward Design." Understanding by Design, 13-34.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supersivon and Curricilum Development.
consider provincial and local requirements and clarify priorities. Secondly, Stage Two is
determining acceptable evidence through assessment using Backwards design orientation. Lastly,
Stage Three is planning instructional activities based on desired results and evidence of
Wiggins and McTighe point out three practical processes for planning design: a
backwards design template, design standards, and design tools. A backwards design template is a
simple, practical, one-page template that gives the educator an example of how to use backwards
design. This template further reinforces the need for designing around student understanding to
avoid the twin sins of design. Design standards are used for each stage and provide guidelines to
teachers for developing and making quality units. The standards also provide critical review
opportunities for teachers from their peers. Finally, design tools provide support to both teacher
curriculum developers. They are intelligent tools that give concrete support when it comes to
abstract ideas and processes in the design process. It makes cognitive take useful and impactful.
The authors’ closeout the chapter by commenting on the design process and defining four
crucial aspects of backward design: assessments, assessing for targeted standards, teaching
methods and materials are chosen based on what students need to understand, and the role of the
textbook changing in the classroom. Moreover, Wiggins and McTighe state the design process
will be further covered in detail in the text as we progress. Coverage design will define, and as a
subject will be discussed in-depth.
This chapter reading is profound in the sense that we, as prospective educators, have so
much more that we can learn for designing curriculum and assessment. Design is an interesting
concept for teaching that I knew was important but just not how important it is to the teaching
profession. Backwards design is a concept I am looking forward to investigating further. As a
Christian educator, the concepts described in this chapter, such as uncoverage, really stands out
to me as a possibly useful tool for helping our students become better disciples for Christ; they
learn a subject in-depth instead of just grazing over facts. I am excited to learn more about this
Ultimately, Wiggins and McTighe conveying in their text are backwards design is a
method for the design that starts at the end of a process. It is complex and requires planning to be
resolute to create good designs.
Wiggins and Jay McTighe. 2005. "Backward Design." Understanding by Design, 13-34.
Alexandria, VA: Association for Supersivon and Curricilum Development.